So, how about combining the pretty but intelligent and cultured girlie, adventure and travel themes into something which might popularise – for the right sort of reader and the right sort of traveller – two fairly obscure but very beautiful corners of Europe? After all, the ‘Spain’ that features in many novels nowadays, sun-parched monolingual enclaves populated by lotus-eating ex-pats, punctuated by skeletal cranes, and liberally sprinkled with environmentally-unfriendly golf courses and swimming pools, is a land poles apart from the ‘Spain’ I know and love, even though that too is changing all too rapidly nowadays (and not always for the better, not by a long shot). What about Poland? In 2002 EU membership was still two years’ distant and being vigorously campaigned against by Andrzej Lepper et al. of the Samoobrona party. No doubt Mr. Ryan of the budget airline was already hungrily eyeing the potential ‘Do widzenia, kochanie[1] market and the filling of empty seats on return flights at weekends with eager Brit binge-drinkers bound for the beery delights of Warszawa, Kraków and Szczecin. Who holidays in picturesque Warmia-Mazury nowadays, though, apart from the Poles? Indeed, who could pinpoint that charming part of former Ostpreussen on a map?


This time the pen did not go back to the paper. Instead, two fingers flew over the PC keyboard, the manuscript was from the very start an electronic one, and the story more or less tumbled into place over the summer of 2002 . . . only to be revised and rewritten in its entirety during the record-breaking cold spell we endured (and at times enjoyed) on the shores of the deep-frozen Zalew Wislany in January and February 2003 - yet more useful copy for the storyline!


The next stage, following our return to Asturias in the autumn of 2003, was to get the whole thing into print. Published, in other words. Via Google I stumbled across the evolving world of on-demand publishing, and the commercial success story that is Trafford Publishing. I know there are those who will dismiss such an approach as ‘vanity publishing’, for reasons I quite fail to understand. For one thing, on-demand publishing is ecological. The author does not have to churn out vast quantities of double-spaced photocopied manuscript for a publisher. No postage is involved. Time-wasting and costly travel to meet agents and publishers is eliminated. So is the agent, and so is the editor. Books are only printed as orders come in for them, and on high quality recycled paper, too. The end product is in fact considerably superior to a standard paperback in terms of physical quality. And delight of delight, the author is in charge of the whole process from beginning to end. He determines what goes into the book, and what remains out. Some might say that is a ‘Bad Thing’ and that original works should be subjected to ‘Editing’. As I have stated elsewhere, I do a lot of editing myself, even to the extent of reducing the length of technical articles I have put together by about fifty per cent while simultaneously trying to avoid hacking out too much vital data and information. So for once in a while it is pleasurable to be able to publish something in its entirety, warts and all, no matter how many or how few people are going to read it!


On-demand publishing, like using the services of Amazon to buy books, still has one great weakness, or ‘Catch 22’ aspect about it. Visit a secondhand bookshop, and a title by an author hitherto unknown to you might catch your eye. Visit Amazon, and to a large extent your search is confined to the authors whom you already know, or who have been recommended to you by the website system itself. Unless the author publishing on-demand is prepared to get involved in a great deal of self-publicity addressing those markets likely to be interested in his or her works, he or she stands about as much chance as the proverbial donkey in Hades of getting himself or herself known!


There may be various ways to break out of the anonymity trap without involving too much effort or expense. No doubt someone will think of something, and then we can all bid farewell to the agent, editor and multinational publishing house and each strike our individual blows against the globalisation of the literary world.


This link from Coastal Express is a tentative testing of the temperature of the water among a specific and rather specialised readership group. If you have strayed this far from the Hurtigrute steamers of the Norwegian coast, and stayed with me this far, I hope I can entice you to tag along just a little further before pressing the ‘Or would you like to return to CONTENTS?’ link . . .




[1] Who remembers the 1970s television comedy about British construction workers in Germany?